* * *

NELLY

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MIRICIOIU

AN  APPRECIATION  by
James  Mayhew

The Italians call her “L’unica”; in Amsterdam she is “The Queen of Bel Canto” and she is recognised internationally as a singing-actress of the very first rank.
But her success has been hard won.

Born in Adjud, Rumania, in 1952, Nelly Miricioiu’s life under Ceaucescu’s dictatorship was almost unbelievably harsh. Her family were persecuted, and later she herself became a victim of the state police, suffering appalling and repeated abuse, imprisonment and eventually a series of breakdowns. It is, in itself, a story of almost operatic dimensions - and unshakable determination. Eventually, after winning a string of international singing competitions, opportunities to sing abroad allowed her to escape. 
She has only ever returned to her homeland once - briefly for a concert -  and considers herself a British soprano, having now been a citizen of her adopted country for over 25 years.
In 2008 she returned to Rumania for a concert performance of  Adriana Lecouvreur  and is scheduled to return there in May  2009 for a performance of  Norma.

Nelly Miricioiu made her debut in Mozart’s Magic Flute, as the Queen of the Night, and for more than a decade sang leading roles at the state theatres in Rumania. And so she was already in her thirties when she made her Western debut with Scottish Opera in 1982 in La Traviata, a role she has sung over 350 times. She has appeared, to great acclaim, at all the major operatic theatres in the world - from London to Sydney, from Vienna to Milan, and from New York to Paris, Moscow, Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Washington and Madrid. 
Her unusually large repertoire ranges from Mozart, to Verdi, Puccini and the verismo movement to the twentieth century with Respighi and Zandonai, taking in French and Russian composers too. But it is perhaps in the great bel canto operas that she has really found her niche, bringing a drama and conviction to technically challenging music that few other singers could match.

Miricioiu’s distinctive timbre and plangent tone can be heart stoppingly beautiful, but she has never been afraid to take risks in her search for theatrical truth. She also enjoys a challenge, and for Opera Rara she has made a highly acclaimed series of recordings, largely of hitherto unknown works from the bel canto canon, including complete operas by Pacini. Mercadante and Donizetti. For this she has had to learn roles for which there is no clear tradition to follow, no other performances to refer to. And doing so with the knowledge that she will only ever perform them once. Such dedication to exploring hidden jewels of the repertoire does a great service to music.

Yet - inexplicably - she has never been embraced by the big mainstream record companies and many of her principal roles have never been commercially recorded. Her reputation lies largely on the first rate performances delivered in the theatre. In that sense she is an old-style diva who has on many occasions been compared to the great singers of the bel canto era - Giuditta Pasta, Isabella Colbran and Giulia Grisi - and who has not had a career based on hype and marketing, or carefully engineered recordings, but on the integrity and commitment and sheer hard work she brings to her roles on stage.

Which is why the legendary live recordings that have been carefully restored by Celestial Audio are so cherishable.  Here, at last, is a chance to discover some wonderful performances by an intelligent and generous performer, whose difficult early life translates so clearly into heartfelt, impassioned singing, whose voice, with it’s myriad of colours and exquisite shadings brings humanity and pathos to her creations.

Here you will find her Maria Stuarda - by turn limpidly beautiful, and scorchingly angry; her Ermione blazing forth unforgettably in an electrifying concert performance from Brussels; her Elisabetta in Don Carlos, achingly sad, her subtle phrases filled with wistful melancholy and regret; from Amsterdam, her Norma - overwhelmingly tragic in the final scenes - and her dazzling Armida as described by Michael Davidson in a review of the concert in 
Opera Magazine:

“The highly individual timbre of Miricioiu’s voice, her imagination and intensity, her exceptional range and sense of timing make for a unique talent. Her singing evoked so much poetry, strength and eroticism in the score that sets and costumes became irrelevant…The Concertgebouw shook with very un-Dutch exuberance.”

Today Nelly Miricioiu continues to explore new repertoire, always finding delight in the pleasure of sharing music with an audience, always quick to enjoy the success of her colleagues, and very content with her British family who have brought her the stability and happiness so lacking in the first part of her career.

She is a remarkable singer, and an equally remarkable human being whose work - and life - deserve to be remembered and celebrated.


                        Nelly Miricioiu's  Official Website:     http://www.nellymiricioiu.com

Read an interview with Nelly Miricioiu :            http://www.musicalcriticism.com/interviews/miricioiu-0509.shtml

Read a further appreciation of  Nelly Miricioiu  and her art:
http://voix-des-arts.blogspot.com/2010/03/artist-profile-nelly-miricioiu-soprano.html

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It remains a matter of some bewilderment that while Nelly has been a British citizen for well over twenty years she is still often referred to as "the Romanian soprano" !!!
Indeed, a review of her  London (2009) recital used this expression in its introduction.
Only recently has Nelly paid a return visit to the land of her birth for a performance of "Adriana Lecouvreur".   Married to an Englishman, and with a young son, one would have thought that her "Britishness" assured, yet she continues to be referred to as some foreign singer and engaged by the resident companies on an adhoc basis.  Thankfully, OPERA RARA  appreciated her talent and produced several recordings in which we can enjoy her artistry in top class sound.

Her fan base is world wide and "The Queen of the Concertgebouw" threatens to snatch Leyla Gencer's title of "Queen of the Pirates".   Nelly's broadcast and inhouse recordings circulate widely and with peer-to-peer transfers, more and more of her performances have gained currency. This remarkable artist deserves greater recognition for her achievements.

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Nelly Miricioiu's first appearance at the Saturday Matinee at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam in 1985

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25th  Anniversary Performance at the

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam  2010

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In preparation  .....

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